Cosmetics Man - makeup world gets a masculine touch
It was a rare sight indeed.
The students attending a makeup workshop for the cosmetics brand Vidi Vici, which was created by celebrity makeup artist Lee Kyung-min, were women.
All five demonstrators were men.
“If you buy UV protection with 50 SPF, always pick an item with three plus signs,” said Chae Seong-eun, the chief instructor at the workshop, which was held at Hyundai Department store south of the river. “They’ll block both UVA and UVB rays.”
The female audience nodded in agreement and watched the experts work their magic with the cosmetics line.
The seven-strong team of makeup art demonstrators for Vidi Vici is male, and six out of 23 makeup artists at Hyundai are also male. In September, high school buddies Sohn Dae-sik and Park Tae-yoon launched their own cosmetics brand.
As Seonwoo Yunjae, a makeup instructor at the Soobin Academy, says, Korean men are increasingly interested in fashion, accounting for higher numbers of male makeup artists.
“We live in a world where more men prefer to go to beauty shops than barber shops,” she says. “More cosmetics brands target male consumers, and more men want to work in the beauty industry.”
She adds that it’s a benefit - not a barrier - that men learn about women’s fashion from scratch. Many women who want to get into fashion often make the mistake of assuming that they already know everything, which is a false assumption.
“Male students can be just as, or even more, sensitive than their female rivals,” Seonwoo adds.
However, barriers do exist, especially in the beginning. After adapting to an industry dominated by women, male makeup artists are faced with a problem: limited practical application. You see, men can’t practice what they’ve learned through their own beauty care studies since it is not acceptable in Korea for a man to parade around town in full makeup.
“You have to put in double the effort,” says Chae, a male makeup artist who only wanted to use his surname.
Men in this field have also noted something else. Lim Chae-yeol, 27, a male-makeup artist with five years’ experience at Vidi Vici, says his job has changed his personality and attitudes.
“You can’t help becoming more feminine,” he says. “My high school friends tell me that I’ve become more meticulous and sensitive. I use more hand gestures and I talk more politely.”
Another challenge is the hands-on application of makeup in a professional setting with boyfriends and husbands in attendance.
Hwang Byeong-yoon, 25, in the same team, majored in theology. In his last year, he decided to become a makeup artist and signed up for a beauty school.
“When a couple visits the store, I tend to explain the procedure to the guy while I work on his girlfriend,” Hwang says, explaining he’s worried men might be offended if another guy is in close physical contact with their girlfriends or wives.
The beauty industry is a tough field: Fashion and makeup artists have to put in long hours, and artists who belong to promotion teams for cosmetics brands have to hit the road at least once a month and prepare for major shows. Holidays are irregular, which is why more men are assigned to the promotion teams.
Clearly, women are comfortable with men handling their makeup, and they see benefits.
“You have to look at women more objectively because you’re a man,” Hwang says. “Men tend to take the job more seriously because a lot of us have chosen this profession despite unfavorable public opinion.”
Min Seon-mi, 42, who went to one of the makeup lectures at Vidi Vici, says she is aware more men work in cosmetics shops these days.
“This is not the Joseon Dynasty, and whoever is good at what they do should do it, whether they are male or female,” she says.
Another student says male artists tend to explain the products in greater detail than women.
“Three or four years ago, five out of 10 female clients turned down or shied away if a male makeup artist was going to do their makeup” Lim says. “Now more women voluntarily request that their faces be done by men when they come to the shop.”
A survey by Gmarket, an online shopping site, last month found that up to 64.6 percent of the women polled said they’re willing to let men do their makeup. About 45 percent said there wouldn’t be much difference between men and women, and 14 percent said the experience would be better.
In the same survey, 40 percent of men said they would be happy to see men do their girlfriends’ faces. About 40 percent said they wouldn’t mind whether the artist was male or female.
Only 32.1 percent said they would object.
By Song Ji-hye JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]
More in Arts & Design
Shining a light
Everyone can sit in the coveted front row at S/S Seoul Fashion Week
An insight into K-pop's obsession with Jean-Michel Basquiat
Ambiguity is inevitable according to renowned contemporary artist Haegue Yang
Art collective teamLab combines humans and nature